Posted On: November 6, 2006 by Christopher T. Hurley

School bus injuries and seat belts

According to new report published today in the journal Pediatrics, and discussed in a Chicago Tribune article by Jeremy Manier and Carolyn Starks, children riding in school buses sustain about 17,000 injuries each year, far more than previous estimates. The results of the report show that children ages 10 to 14 have the greatest chance of injury. The study found that while only 42 percent of school bus injuries that required emergency room care happened during a crash, many of the other injuries occurred when children fell during sudden stops or while they were getting on or off the bus.

Yet, when fatalities are calculated, school buses are still safer than cars. Federal estimates say school buses account for just 0.2 deaths per 100 million miles traveled, compared with 1.5 fatalities per million miles for passenger vehicles.

According the Chicago Tribune article, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), which sets standards for school buses, requires seat belts for buses under 10,000 pounds but not for larger buses, which are better able to absorb impacts. While the American Academy of Pediatrics has apparently recommended that all new school buses include seat belts, the NHTSA found that belts that only go over the lap might cause more injuries than they would prevent. The safer three-point lap and shoulder belts would reduce the risk of injury, but the NHTSA estimated that such a measure would cost up to $150 million each year while preventing only two fatalities each year nationwide.

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